This is us
The power of being proximate
Our founders, Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din, launched Proximity Designs in 2004 with the commitment to create a social business for Myanmar’s underserved rural families. They saw farmers’ profound needs were neglected by the private, government and aid sectors. After 20 years working to make change happen in tough environments around the world, they put to use a powerful idea they learned at the start of their careers.
It was in the Mississippi Delta where they worked with social entrepreneur and civil rights leader, John Perkins, that they learned an important lesson: deep knowledge and understanding comes from living among those you aim to serve. Their problems become yours.
With these values, they moved to Myanmar and entered the rural market with 13 team members and two treadle pump models, working alongside rural farmers.
Hence, our name Proximity.
35 million rural farmers with a lot to gain
In a country where 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture, improvements in farming technology and techniques – and the credit to access them – are vital to improving living conditions.
That’s where we come in. Our mission is to increase incomes across rural Myanmar. Over the past 14 years, our customers have seen an average annual income increase of 30 percent by using our products and services, which helps put food on the table, keep kids in school and set families up for a brighter, easier future.
Agility through moments of change
While our mission has always stayed the same, over the years we’ve adapted quickly, responding to changing needs. This couldn’t have been more true in the days immediately after Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in 2008. That year we shifted gears, employing our distribution network to eventually deliver over $16 million in emergency aid to 1.2 million farmers.
As we grow, we continuously aim to deliver the most impactful products and services for our customers. Now we see ourselves at an inflection point – moving beyond treadle pumps to scale a wider platform of agricultural services, coupled with nation-building to help Myanmar’s farmers achieve their goals.
Social and enterprising
Being a social business, our aim is to have deep sustainable impact at a large scale. Our revenue model is 65% earned revenues from the products and services we sell and 35% philanthropic capital. Our grants allow us to invest in product design, measure impact and reach thousands of rural villages.
Human-Centered DesignDesigning products for the rural poor play_circle_filled
The Delta, the Dry Zone and beyond
The scale and scope of our work
Our early years of operation allowed us to create a nationwide network of field sales teams, private retailers and hundreds of independent village agents needed to deliver products and services to small farm customers across Myanmar. Today the scope of our network reaches nearly 80 percent of the farming population. We have customers in the Ayeyarwady Delta, Lower Myanmar, the central Dry Zone and the Shan hills.
The golden land
Why we focus on Myanmar
For decades, Myanmar was one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries. We were drawn to work here because we saw the huge potential for how well-designed products and services could have a meaningful impact on the lives of millions of enterprising small-plot farmers.
Sometimes folks ask us if we have plans to expand beyond Myanmar. Simply put, our answer is no. We strongly believe it takes deep knowledge of a place and the lives of its people to have a chance at solving the complex problems of poverty and economic development. Our intention is to go deep into this large market rather than skim the surface in many different places.
Over the past five years, the pace of change in Myanmar has been dizzying. We’ve had to be especially agile to adjust to the changes our customers are experiencing. Myanmar is far behind its neighbors and millions of small farmers are still neglected and poorly served. It’s now a key moment in the country’s long history. It will take years of sustained effort, wise leadership and efficient use of investments to rebuild the nation and lift millions of rural families out of poverty.
That’s why we’re here.
Lasting impact at scale
Farming households choose to purchase our products and services because they see a quick return on their investment through higher yields, reducing crop losses and optimizing inputs. Our in-house social impact team has been interviewing hundreds of customers every year for over a decade. They measure farmer income gains that can be attributed to the use of our products and services.
Take a look at the numbers below for a snapshot of the scope and scale of our impact:
|Scale||100,000+ farm customers added each year on a base of over 550,000 farm families|
|Reach||9,000 villages, 154 townships, 80% of the farming population|
|Median||Net gain of $250 annually per farmer income|
|Efficiency||6x (net income gain/cost to deliver)|
|Economic Impact||$550 million in the past 5 years|
|Sustainability||65% of budget from earned revenue, 99.7% repayment rate on farm loans|
Reports and financials
Take a peek around and hold us accountable
Here you’ll find our latest quarterly reports and financial statements.
Our community of investors and collaborators
We’re fortunate to receive financial support from an outstanding group of investors and donors aligned with our mission. These include development banks, social impact foundations, governments, corporations and impact investors.
We are honored to be recipients of The Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, The Curry Stone Design Prize, Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year and The Ashden Award for Energy and Agriculture.
Meet a few of our designers, innovators, thinkers and doers
We’ve got some serious talent at Proximity. All 800 of us – from the farmer-turned-sales staff, to the ballroom-dancing General Manager – bring valuable, unique perspectives to our work. Here’s a sampling of some of the people who make up Proximity.
Jim TaylorCo-Founder, CEO Popcorn Addict
Debbie Aung Din TaylorCo-Founder, Proximity Research Lead Meditation Enthusiast
Yamin Myo NyuntHead of Proximity School Bibliophile
Seng Nu PanHead of People Operations Adventurous Cook
Fiona NatuschBusiness Integration Manager Recovering Coffee Connoisseur
Sai Han LinnNational Sales Director, Yetagon Irrigation Family Man
Piet SchutterChief Financial Officer Camper
Phyu Hninn NyeinGeneral Manager, Farm Advisory Services Waltzer
Aung Ko KoProduct Design Team Co-Manager, Labs F1 Fanatic
Geoffrey BrewertonTeam Leader, Creative Services Lethwei Boxer
Min Kaung KhantAssociate, Proximity Research Instagram Caption King
Khine Yee HlaingFinance Manager Soul Singer
Sithu Thein SweAnalytics Manager, Farm Advisory Services Fried Chicken Fiend
Aurora Kazi BassettBusiness Development Manager Tree Historian
Aye Nyein AungSoil Health Diagnostic Service Manager, Farm Advisory Services Foodaholic
Hsu Mon HtetProduct Manager, Yetagon Farm Advisory Services Jokester
Louisa-Jane RichardsUser Research Manager, Labs Apartment Gardener
Paing Hein HtetDigital Services Manager, Farm Advisory Services Tech Enthusiast
Su Su KhineAudit and Compliance Manager Music Lover
Ben WarrenHead of Strategy and Finance, Proximity Finance Small Wave Surfer
Grace SuTeam Leader, Knowledge and Social Impact Adventurer
Aung MoeField Operations Manager, Proximity Finance Party Animal
Seinn Nwe OoFinance Manager, Proximity Finance Super Mom
Kyaw ZayaTeam Leader, IT Thespian
Jon HiebertFunding Relations and Special Projects Manager, Proximity Finance City Cyclist
May Thu ZawProduct Development Manager, Proximity Finance Happy-go-lucky
Oak SoeAnalytics Manager, Yetagon Irrigation Philomath
Phyu Phyu PyaeHead of Trainers, Proximity School Quiet Doodler
Taiei HarimotoHead of Proximity Labs Canoe Dancer
Su Zun MonSenior Product Designer, Proximity Labs Anime Aficionado
Soe Htike LwinBusiness Operations Manager, Proximity Finance Archer
Lwin Mar HtunFinance Business Partner, Farm Advisory Services Karaoke All-star
Kyaw Kyaw NaingProject Director, Digital Initiatives Home Chef
Man Cha KoeFarm Advisory Services Avid Reader
Ryan McCoyGeneral Manager, Yetagon Irrigation Recovering Excel Junkie
Minos Athanassiadis, Jim Taylor, Debbie Aung Din, Elisabeth Eilers and Joel Epstein.